Yesterday I ran the Fargo Marathon 2015 in – you probably guessed it – Fargo, North Dakota. I have never been to North Dakota before and having no real reason to go there I picked the marathon as the reason. “Why did I want to visit North Dakota in the first place?” you might ask. It is my goal to have visited all 50 US States before I turn 50 and North Dakota has been missing on that list so far. Now ND has become number 47 for me. Just three more states to go from here (Oregon, West Virginia, Hawaii). Anyway, here is my Fargo Marathon race recap.
My goal for the race was to run a new personal record and so I did. It was not the big leap that I hoped for, but I was almost 3 minutes faster compared to my previous fastest marathon. However, I did pull a muscle during the race and the last 5 miles were painful and slow. I lost about a minute per mile on those last 5 miles. I was not in a good mood during those last 5 miles, but I fought through it and finished the race. I am very happy with the result no matter what. Seeing what would have been possible I am not giving up hope that I might qualify for Boston one day.
The Fargo marathon started and ended inside the Fargo Dome – the local (large) indoor arena. This was very convenient because there was plenty of parking outside and you could wait for the race to start without being exposed to the mid-30 degree temperatures outside. There were also plenty of bathrooms available with no waiting unless you had to go #2 which I did not.
I had arrived the day before – driving up to Fargo from Denver. While it was a long drive I did not feel tired from it. I had booked a hotel in Moorhead, MN. Which was just a quick 10-12 minutes away from the parking lot at the Fargo Dome. The hotel felt like a big joke and while my expectations were very low (I had booked a Days Inn), the hotel and its staff managed to not even closely meet my low expectations. This Days Inn was clearly decades overdue for a renovation. My guess was that the carpet and everything was installed sometime in the late 1970s or so. The staff was untrained and unmotivated. The best thing was when I tried to check out at 5.00 AM on Saturday morning. The night clerk told me that it was too early to checkout and that checkout time would be at noon. Did he really expect me to show up at noon to checkout from the hotel?! I could not get a receipt or the amount of the total charges, but got the friendly advice to check my credit card for any unwanted charges. This felt very comforting … lol
I left the hotel and drove to the Fargo Dome. I arrived way too early (as expected) and found a good parking spot close to the entrance. While waiting I ate another bagel with peanut butter and had a few minor zips of water. The race would start at 7.30 AM and I entered the arena at around 6.40 AM. I spent the remaining time visiting the bathroom a few times and also ate a Banana. I had a conversation with a young guy who was studying at NDSU which is located right next door. It was his first ever marathon and I shared some of my experience with him and gave a him a few tips. He seemed very unprepared. As an example he had brought a couple of Granola bars for refueling during the race and he also had no idea what to do with his bag. I mentioned the bag-check and that rang a bell with him. I also recommended getting some gels for his next race or grab a few at the first aid station that GUs as there were only two that had them.
When the start of the race came closer I went down to the start area on the arena floor. I saw the Pace Group for a 3:50 finish and decided to loosely run with them and then see how things would go. I had never run with a pace group before and was hoping that it would help me to run a new PR. Shortly before the official start the Canadian National Anthem and the American National Anthem were played. Apparently many Canadians had made the trip across the border and I found this to be a really nice touch.
Then it was off to the races. I managed to stay close to the 3:50 pacer during the madness of the start. The pacer seemed a bit off with his overall pace and we stayed awfully close to the 3:40 pace group for quite a while. My Garmin reflected a much faster pace as well and I was getting a bit concerned that we were heading out too fast. I had trained for faster speeds and the legs felt good so I decided to hang for a while. The pace was not impossible for me to run – I had trained a few long runs with a similar pace, but I knew it was the upper limit for me.
The race quickly headed off the main streets into residential neighborhoods. Besides the cold temperatures and the early morning hours there were actually quite a few spectators out already. Many kids had lined up to catch as many high fives as possible which made for a fun run. Miles went by quickly and my legs were still feeling good. My breathing felt good as well and I followed my normal refueling strategy. I made it a habit to thank the police officers and other volunteers when running by blocked intersections (blocked from traffic for the race of course) or aid stations. The 3:50 group did not really seem chatty at all everyone was running their own race within the group. The pacer talked to 2-3 people in the group, but that was it. The pace was still a bit faster than it should have been and according to my Garmin we drifted sometimes to being 20 seconds faster per mile. Does not sound like a lot, but over the distance of 26 miles it can make quite a difference. But overall the pacer did a good job, but was probably more running for a 3:45 finish.
While the marathon lead through a nice park area and through 3 local colleges it was not much exciting at all and felt very boring. Being part of the 3:50 pacer group helped a little bit to not become totally bored.
My left leg had a nagging minor injury for the last 2 weeks and while it all felt Ok before the race it slowly came back during the run I guess I over-compensated during the run to stay comfortable, but that in return probably was the reason for what happened around mile 21. I suddenly felt a sharp pain on my left (upper) thigh and the only way to reduce the pain was to make smaller steps, much smaller than I would normal do. I tried a few things, but in the end slowing down felt like the only option to keep the pain under control. Every time I tried to give a little more I was painfully reminded not to do so or else. This sucked. I felt I had enough energy to run with the 3:50 pace group and to maybe even pull ahead of them a little bit, but I just could not do it.
I settled at the lower pace and tried to maintain a decent speed. I was still passing other marathoners, but I was also being passed by other runners. I was frustrated, but then again seeing the time cushion on my Garmin I felt that I would still be able to PR in this race and that feeling helped to keep me going. Over the last 3-4 miles spectator support was fantastic. I have to give it to the people in Fargo – they were fantastic. I had a hard time clearing my mind from the negative thoughts, but having so much outside support in form of screaming spectators and music bands was great. Thank you, Fargo!!
The last mile felt like it would never end, but then I saw the Fargo Dome right in front of me and I knew I had this race in the bag. Suddenly I forgot about the sharp pain in my leg and really enjoyed the moment. One more turn along the front side of the Fargo Dome and then I reach the ramp that would lead down towards the arena floor. The arena was filled with runners and spectators and it was a great experience right in that moment. I made it across the Finish line, stopped my Garmin, and slowly came to realize that I had a new PR by almost 3 minutes and that I ran my second marathon (out of now six) in under 4 hours. My official race time was 3:54:38.
I slowly walked away from the finish line to where the volunteers were handing out finisher medals. Once I had my medal I grabbed some water and then some chocolate milk. I passed a few tables with post-race food, but nothing appealed to me in that moment. Overall the first 5 minutes after the race felt like a blur to me. I walked up the stairs to the main floor, used the bathroom, and then walked outside to my car. I did a few stretches, but simply wanted to sit down. The rental that I had driven up from Denver had heated seats and that felt extremely appealing to me in that moment. I rested for about 10-15 minutes and then hopped in the back of the car to change into dry clothes. Within 30-40 minutes after crossing the finish line of the Fargo Marathon I left the parking lot to start my drive back to Denver. I stopped at a Supermarket first to use the restroom to wash myself and then to buy some chocolate milk to start recovery. Chocolate milk is my favorite recovery drink because of the carbs and lots of protein.
I am very happy about having a new PR with 3:54:38 under my belt. The race seemed well organized and not having to freeze before the start was awesome. The course felt a bit boring, but spectator support was awesome. Running with a pace group was not a bad idea and even though this specific pacer was a bit off the chart I am still happy that I stuck with him and the 3:50 group. It definitely helped to make the miles go by fast. This is the first time I hurt myself during a marathon and that sucks. I have quite the motivation to further work on my speed and having to rest a bit longer than I normally would after marathon is not what I had in mind.